MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — It’s a tournament Phil Mickelson has come so close to winning so many times, only to agonizingly fall short.
Not the U.S. Open — that’s next week — but the St. Jude Classic in Memphis.
Mickelson definitely won’t claim that first U.S. Open victory this year because he’s already said he’s skipping it to attend his daughter’s high school graduation .
But he hopes to finally break through at TPC Southwind, where Mickelson has three top-three finishes in the last four years in Memphis with no titles.
“I don’t want to think about the results because when you start thinking results, you never perform your best,” Mickelson said Wednesday. “But I do know that if I play well, it’s a golf course I’ve played well on in the past. I like it very much, and I’ve been playing well this year. I just haven’t quite shot as low as I’d like to, and I feel like it’s close. I can’t think of a better place to put it all together than right here.”
The final tuneup before the U.S. Open next week in Wisconsin brought out a tough field, with Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka here along with Adam Scott, who is playing here for the first time in a decade, and Daniel Berger, who is defending his first and only PGA Tour title .
“It’s been awesome,” Berger said. “You get a lot of kind of great memories driving in, and it just like, didn’t feel like that long ago, and it was a year ago.”
Some things to watch during the final event before the U.S. Open:
—OPEN TROUBLE: The winner in Memphis might find trouble next week at Erin Hills. No player has gone on to win the U.S. Open after winning the previous week on tour. Only 11 times has a player won a major championship the week after winning on the tour, and the last to do it was Rory McIlroy — who won the PGA Championship in 2014 after his victory at the Bridgestone Invitational.
“I definitely like playing the week before majors,” Fowler said. “I feel like it allows me to kind of see where the game’s at, what needs to be worked on, what needs to be tightened up. ... Part of that is making sure the game’s in a good spot, and if we’re able to put ourselves in contention after last week, then we’ll be in a good spot going into the U.S. Open.”
—FIRST TIME’S A CHARM: Could another first-time winner emerge this week? Four of the last six champions in Memphis had not previously won on the tour, including the last two: Berger last year and Fabian Gomez in 2015.
—ON THE MOVE?: Players can still make it into the U.S. Open if they can crack the top 60 in the world golf rankings by the end of this tournament. But only one player can get into the top 60, and he would have to win. That short list of possibilities includes Ian Poulter and Hudson Swafford, neither of whom played in the qualifier.
—SEC COUNTRY: After capturing an individual NCAA championship, Braden Thornberry will play on a sponsor’s exemption. Thornberry, a sophomore at Mississippi, claimed a four-stroke victory last week for the Rebels’ first golf title. Another player with Southeastern Conference ties, ex-Florida player Sam Horsfield is making his pro debut.
This version corrects the penultimate item “ON THE MOVE?” to show Hahn and Finau are not playing this week.